Everyone goes to graduate school these days, but how about trying your hand at glass blowing in Venice? Not that artistic? Why not brew beer in Germany or salsa dance in Brazil?
OK, so picking up after graduation and moving to Iceland to herd sheep may not be the best alternative to graduate school, but getting some real life experience can be more helpful on your resume than the average two-year graduate degree.
Picture this: Big-wig editor in chief is sitting across from you, your resume in his hand. His eyes glaze over as he reads: a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. No doubt, you busted your chops to earn that degree but he smirks to himself anyway, “Another J-school junkie.” In his day most journalists didn’t even go to college.
Now, replace the educational padding with two years of winemaking in Napa Valley. Mr. Editor’s eyebrows rise. His face lights up. This is your opportunity to bring an entirely different aspect to his publication. Believe it or not, this might land you a job quicker than the poor fellow who spent three years writing a dissertation about the schematics of the U.S. presidency.
The idea that graduate school is a requirement is really an excuse for those who are looking to avoid reality. Time and time again, students can be heard saying, “I’ll just go to graduate school after college because I don’t feel like getting a job.” Or they think extra education will land them a better job. These days, undergraduate college educations are a dime a dozen and graduate degrees are not that far off.
“At the post-secondary level, both population growth and increasing enrollment rates help explain rising enrollments,” the Education Statistics Quarterly reported in 2003. Apparently 16 years of education isn’t enough and students are scrambling to fill out more applications to prolong their education. It seems like education is becoming a profession in itself, except the paycheck situation is reversed and colleges definitely don’t provide free health insurance.
It is true that students with higher degrees do make more money in the long run. USNews.com reported that, “The lifetime income of those holding master’s degrees surpasses those who received only a bachelor’s by about $139,000, while professional and doctoral graduates earn $595,477 more than the bachelor’s holders,” according to the Employment Policy Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
But postgraduate education does not always promise big bucks. Just ask one of your well respected Temple professors. In 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that a professor in a four-year public university made an average salary of $82,344 a year. That’s hardly enough to pay off academic loans. More education does not always promise a better bottom line.
Money talk aside, venturing off the academic path to make paper fans in Japan seems fairly irrational. But so does spending four more years in school because you don’t have a clue what you want to do with your life. Neither choice promises a lucrative outcome. Chances are when you are 50, you still might not know what you want to do. According to various online sources, Americans change jobs, or even careers, an average of five to seven times during their lifetime.
Graduate school doesn’t have to be immediate. There is nothing wrong with working an entry level job before you go. The best bet is to find a company willing to hire and pay for your master’s.
There is no shame in going back to school later. About.com featured a study on graduate school stating, “More than one-half of grad students in the U.S. are over age 30. If you wait before going to grad school, be prepared to explain your decision, what you learned, and how it improves your candidacy.”
Of course, it can’t be denied that there are certain professions who require postsecondary education. Obviously no one wants a cardiologist who spent five years after college perfecting the art of tobacco pipe making instead of going to medical school.
But graduate school should not be a solution to ambiguity about one’s future. It’s a choice that takes a lot of consideration. In the mean time, take off for Hawaii and learn to play the ukulele. Gain experience first and if need be, tackle more education. Living life can be postponed for as many years as you can handle screeching chalk, but the best education is the one in which the world is your teacher.
Nicole D’Andrea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.